In 2012, my now-husband, John introduced me to sake.
Before that, I don’t believe I had ever even heard of Sake - which isn’t surprising considering my Kentucky upbringing.
Even so, I could tell he was a sake fanatic. His apartment walls were decorated with beautiful bottles he had found and conquered. I enjoyed pointing out various bottles that had interesting shapes or pictures which he would pick up and smile while he told me the name and type, who he shared the bottle with and where, followed by a few reasons why he liked this particular flavor and type.
Junmai, Daiginjo, Onna Nakase… I had no idea what any of the words meant, but I liked that the bottle was square and green, and I could tell this sake - like so many others lining the wall - was more than a drink. Sake is a vessel to new experiences, friendships, and a link to a historical culture. I was excited to steal a glimpse into this secret and so recently completely unknown world.
I’m almost sorry to say I don’t remember exactly what my first sake was or even where I was when I had it. I’m sure it was lovely and smooth, probably something floral (as that is John’s go-to introductory-sake profile) I do however, remember exactly the first sake I fell in love with.
Narutotai Ginjo Nama Genshu, first served to me at Decibel in New York City. This sake comes in a can-like bottle and makes no excuses. The flavor is strong and unforgiving, and yet somehow rich, creamy and drinkable all the same. Narutotai is still a go to favorite of mine, even 4 years later.
As I was introduced to more sakes and sake-culture events, I began to keep my own internal shelf of beloved sakes and their surrounding experiences.
This has of course, lead to an actual shelf of prized and favorited sakes.
Each new restaurant, sake bar, and tasting event provides a new opportunity for me to learn. Learn how the drink is made, about the people who make it, and their own sake experiences. I am continuously intrigued as I add each unique story and sake lesson to my internal sake shelf.
I hope that a perspective from a new learner will help make the vast and ever changing world of sake more accessible to those that are new to the sake world,and those that are trying to learn as much as they can, as I still am.